sunflowerp: (BattleReady)
[personal profile] sunflowerp
I am a cis woman. That is, my gender identity[1] and my genes/hormones/plumbing/etc match up, as female. That matchup is a privilege.

The adjective[2] "cis" was coined because there are occasions when it's necessary to distinguish those who have such a match-up from those who don't (trans people/women/men). It is not inherently a pejorative term (though it can be used pejoratively, as can most words); it's simply the Latin antonym of "trans".

There are, however, people who have the privilege of identity/biology matchup who find it horribly offensive (GG the Undead takes note here of a particularly massive and trainwrecky instance [see also Questioning Transphobia's post, while I'm not posting specifically about that debacle, was what inspired me to quit waiting for that long-delayed shipment of Round Tuits and damned well post these thoughts). Most of the objections I've seen are about like the first one quoted at QT, which can be summarized as, "But I don't like it!", or are even less coherent.

As far as I can tell, the "offense" here is that the offended folks feel like they've lost the privilege of being Unmarked Case. That's pure "puff" privilege, all style and no substance; the most substantial thing lost is their sense of being "normal", "not one of the freaks". Their sense of it, mind you; the world is not suddenly looking at them askance. Most of the time, there's no need at all to subdivide the category "woman" (or "man") into cis women and trans women (or cis men and trans men); those folks objecting to "cis" aren't being asked to constantly and consistently identify themselves as a subclass of the category. If that were the case, they might have a point - the exact same point as those trans women and men who object to being asked to specify their transness whether it's relevant or not.

When trans folk and their allies use the adjective "cis", the intent is to construct a frame in which, when subdivision of categories is relevant to the discourse, each subcategory is adjectivally distinguished, and when subdivision is not relevant, no distinguishing adjectives are required. I've never heard an objection to "cis" that argued that all distinguishing adjectives are offensive[3], or offensive-when-irrelevant; if they touch on that at all, it's to champion the "right" of trans folk to identify by their chosen term "trans" - completely eliding that it's an identifier chosen for those instances of relevance. "Trans woman/man" is not[4] an identity in place of woman/man, it's an identity in place of terms habitually and traditionally used derogatorily.

No, the objection is that "cis" in particular is offensive. Taking again the first objector quoted in the QT post linked above, it's because cis people didn't make it up themselves. Granted, it's not put like that, it's expressed as not being able to choose the identity-term - well, no more did trans people; they selected the least-baggage-laden of a selection of terms imposed by the (cis-defaultive) cultural mainstream. Note that the objector doesn't offer an alternative of any kind, nor any examples of "cis" being used derogatorily; basically, he's just offended because other people are marking his privilege baggagecase, dammit, it's his to mark, but he's not gonna.

And that's one of the most coherent, cogent, and tightly-reasoned arguments I've read about the offensiveness of "cis": it's insulting because it explicitly points out privilege.

If that's the most "offensively" that your privilege is ever called out, you have no gripe coming.

[1] In a binary model. Get beyond the binary, and it gets complicated.

[2] Adjective, rather than prefix, because either "cis" or "trans" used as a prefix has stronger connotations of being outside the unmarked-case category. This may seem trivial, but the first time I went to type "ciswoman" to identify myself, it smacked me upside the head - yep, it does matter.

[3] In a post-transphobic world, we wouldn't need the distinguishing adjectives. This is not that world, so anyone advocating eliminating both "trans" and "cis" is either criminally naive, or disingenuously trying to sweep transphobia under the rug.

[4] Some individual trans folk have a strong identity with the "trans" adjective, and prefer "trans woman/man" to unmodified "woman/man".

Note on commenting: Transphobia in comments will be called out, if not by me then by others, but will only be deleted if there's no content of substance or if it's especially nasty - as a general principle, I prefer public disagreement, unto mocking if it seems apropos, to cleaning up and thus concealing misdeeds. If you're a cis person with privilege baggage, you'd best hope I get to it before my trans* readers do; I'm merely snarkastic and scalpel-tongued, they are used to fighting for their lives.

ETA: That includes calling me out on anything I've screwed up here.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-05 05:55 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] gg_the_undead
they won't come up with another term to replace "cis", becaues in their minds, they already have one: "normal". they are pissed because we are disrupting their internal "normal" / "abnormal" dichotomy, therefore making it harder for them to justify their privilege.

so then they become desperate and start equating trans women with nazis or telling us that we have some kind of "trans privilege".

and yet, when asked to define what trans privilege is - in the sense of how do trans people have "social, systemic, entrenched, institutional advantages" (from lisa's reply) - these people can do nothing more than sputter and pull out their Daly and Greer books.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-07-28 06:12 pm (UTC)
eftychia: Female (Venus) symbol, with a transistor symbol inside the circle part (TransSister)
From: [personal profile] eftychia
"If you're a cis person with privilege baggage, you'd best hope I get to it before my trans* readers do; I'm merely snarkastic and scalpel-tongued, they are used to fighting for their lives."

Thank you for putting it that way. Thank you for understanding that in the first place. It's such a refreshing change from the "Gee, why are you people so upset?" that I've seen far too often in other places. (And thanks for posting the rest of the entry, too.)

November 2009


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